Courtesy of Cameron Scott @ Healthline:
Every year about 1 million people have surgery to repair a tear in the meniscus of their knee, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. It’s an injury that can’t be fully fixed, since cartilage doesn’t repair itself very well. Even patients who have surgery often go on to develop arthritis. Some eventually need a knee replacement.
The clear need for a new approach has led scientists to try using stem cells to regrow the torn cartilage. A new method described in a paper in Science Translational Medicine suggests doctors may be very close to offering patients the chance to regrow their own meniscus.
The researchers used the same biodegradable plastic found in surgical sutures to 3D-print a model meniscus. They loaded the replica with proteins that work something like a magnet for stem cells, drawing them to it from bone marrow. Researchers also loaded the model with growth factors. These helped spur the stem cells to develop into the specialized collagens and fibers that make up cartilage.
When they attached the devices to the uninjured part of the meniscus in seven sheep, the stem cells grew a new, healthy patch of tissue. Sheep have knee joints that are very similar to human knees.
Twelve weeks after surgery, the sheep were back to romping around with full mobility. The plastic had completely dissolved.
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